I’ve been looking forward to having Shani on my site for quite a while because I’ve had such fun getting to know her on Facebook. We have so much in common it’s untrue, it’s like we’ve been cleaved down the middle. We’re both Taurean, cat-loving, Cure-loving, tartware-loving, Nick Cave-digging copywriter’s cum authors. I should verify, Shani digs him, I LOVE him. I would have felt compelled to make a tit of myself if I’d spotted him on Brighton beach like Shani did recently.
Shani also got Gunshot Glitter on an intrinsic level that meant a huge deal to me and has been so supportive, spreading the word about the behemoth. Today, is a huge day for her, because her own debut novel, ‘The Runaway Year,’ is out with Omnific Publishing, TODAY.
I know how psyched I was launching Gunshot Glitter on Kindle last year so I wanted to feature her, and I want you, dear reader, to get to know her too. Read on and enjoy, and if you’re enjoying the sun like I was in Hampstead on Sunday, spread eagle on the grass like a starfish, wear protection, I did, but you need to top up people, I was most amused at my rosie-faced hue at hometime
p.s. I also went to see the road I was born on for the first time. I wanted to see where it was I arrived in this world. Made me happy and emotional, Belsize Grove if you’re taking notes. I kissed the streetsign. How could I not? I thanked my mum on the phone today for birthing me on a rather swish looking street! Right, over to Shani
YSB: Hi Shani, congrats on your publishing deal with Omnific Publishing! Can you tell me how that came about?
After finishing The Runaway Year, I thought ‘what the hell do I do now?’ I considered sending to agents but looking at their response times I thought I might be old, grey and past caring by the time they took me onboard. So, I studied smaller, independent presses instead. I knew a few authors who published with such enterprises and I thought I’d give it a go too – cut out the middle man so to speak. I sent to 10 publishers in total and the response was overwhelming, six wanted to take the manuscript further. I studied again who I had sent it to – very closely this time!!! Omnific Publishing had been established three years, were growing at a steady rate rather than an alarming one and had achieved huge success with three of their recent titles on the New York Times Bestseller List. It seemed for a small publisher, Omnific were big. I decided to go with them and the rest, as they say, is history!
YSB: Kudos to the both of you for finding each other; I know you’re a copywriter by trade but what made you want to write a novel?
As a teen I wrote poetry, incredibly angst-ridden poetry that Robert Smith of The Cure would have been proud of (in fact, he inspired most of it!). After university, I became a freelance copywriter, but always storylines were running through my head. After my first child at 30, I decided to breathe life into one of those storylines and the second of my children, The Runaway Year, was born. It had many titles, there were several versions of it, but eventually it all fell into place with the a little help from my friends who dutifully read it and a blunt-speaking critique at the Writer’s Workshop! The latter told me to re-write the novel completely, utilising three points of view instead of one. Ever obedient, I did as I was told and it worked beautifully.
YSB: Did you love reading as a child/teen? Can you remember what books or writers first impacted on you and why?
From the moment I could first decipher words on a page I was hooked. As a child, I loved spooky stories and annuals – yep, annuals. Misty was my absolutely favourite, scaring me half to death at times and in honour, I have a child named Misty too! As a teen I read a lot of Danielle Steel, Stephen King, Dean Koontz etc but then I discovered Catherine Cookson. With unbridled joy I devoured every one of her books, embarking with the heroine on a mind-bogglingly tumultuous journey towards love and redemption. Every last one of her heroines was spirited and knew their own worth, refusing to be bowed by life and circumstance. I could wax lyrical about her all day I’m that much of a fan, but suffice to say, she remains my absolute inspiration. Oh, and can I just mention Marion Zimmer Bradley and The Mists of Avalon, the woman and book responsible for kick-starting a life-long love of everything Arthurian.
YSB: I absolutely loved Stephen King as a kid, I’ve yet to check out Ms Cookson but I will do. Did you come from a creative family? What do your husband and kids make of having an author in the clan?
My mum likes to paint and write poetry and three of my five brothers paint, commercially as well as for pleasure, so yes, I think I can safely assume my family is creative. As for my husband and kids, they seem not the least perturbed by having an author in the clan – they’re a hard bunch to impress!
YSB: That is super creative, Shani. Thanks also for sharing a painting by your brother Steven ( above). I’m really looking forward to reading your debut. But for now, pretend I’m the great uninitiated and describe the plot to me in a paragraph.
When the going gets tough … it’s easy to run. Layla does, as far away as possible. Penny and Hannah do too, each in their own way. But how long can you run and what happens when you stand your ground? Over the course of 12 hectic months, three best friends embark on an emotional rollercoaster of a ride, discovering that if its love you’re up against, true love, it’s not going to let you get away that easily.
YSB: Which character could you relate to best? Was any of the novel based on personal experience? I know it has a Cornish setting and the place is close to your heart.
Layla Lewis is the main character but I do love Penny Hughes, her best friend. She’s feisty, she’s flirty and she’s ever so naughty. She’s definitely the comedian of the book. My friends were the inspiration for all three female characters, I took a load of their traits and mixed them all up – it’s going to be fun watching them spot which trait belongs to whom. And yes, it’s set in North Cornwall, my spiritual home and whereas Penny’s the comedian of the book, the location is indeed the star of the show!
YSB: I love Cornwall, I spent my birthday in Tintangel last year. Which authors do you love reading now? And if your house was on fire and you could only save 5 of your favourite books, what novels would you grab?
I wouldn’t do it Yasmin, I’d burn with my books! No, really. Oh, okay then, I’d grab Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, What Dreams May Come by Richard Mattheson and The Fifteen Streets by Catherine Cookson. As for what I’m reading right now, a lot of chick lit interspersed with apocalyptic horrors – The Passage by Justin Cronin is particularly good as is Wool by Hugh Howey.
YSB: I’m with you with the Bronte novels. I’d save Wuthering Heights too. As a woman who wears many hats, how do you fit novel writing into your life? What’s your modus operandi?
If I knew what modus operandi meant, I’d tell you! Seriously though, it’s hard to fit it all in, there’s the day job, the dream job and 3 kids. I normally reserve 3 days a week to write creatively, in-between school drop-off and school pick-up normally, but when in the thick of it, I write after the school pick-up and well into the night. The rest of the time I get on with copywriting and engaging in idle chatter with anyone who’ll listen.
YSB: We’ve had loads of great chats about books and music, but do you find yourself listening to it when you write? Does music play any part in your creative process?
Absolute silence must reign or I can’t write. Facebook’s bad enough, I don’t need music as a distraction too. Having said that, I love music and it influences me greatly. A song can spark a storyline, in fact, The Runaway Year is partly inspired by U2’s A Man and a Woman – I love the lyrics to it.
YSB: I love U2. I went to Paris to see them live in 2001.The song ‘Electrical Storm’ had a similar effect on me with a novel idea. Who are you a fan of at the moment? Have you managed to get your kids into any music you love?
At the moment I am re-kindling my love affair with great Brighton band, The Levellers – ‘Carry Me’ is a great song to listen to at full volume whilst driving in your car on a sunny day!
I am also currently adoring Neil Young’s Such a Woman – – the most beautiful love song ever, surely?
I like a lot of old school stuff too, The Alarm, Big Country, The Cure – yep, I tend to live in the past as far as music is concerned! My husband used to be the guitarist in a band and he’s still massively into music – he’s got my eldest into it, big time. His all-time favourite band is Richmond Fontaine – check them out, they’re brilliant. The lead singer, Wily Vlautin is a writer too with several books to his name.
YSB: My friend Pete LOVES The Levellers! I’ll check out Richmond Fontaine. As a first time writer, what pearls of wisdom would you like to bestow on writers deciding which way to publish their novel in today’s publishing climate?
If it’s your first novel, consider smaller publishing companies and not just the big boys. With the big boys you need an agent first and then, say you do get accepted by HarperCollins or suchlike, it can be two years before your novel sees the light of day. With a smaller company you’ll get your novel out there so much quicker and, if it does do well, the big boys may notice you anyway. It is, at the very least, a foot in the door. Self-publishing also intrigues me and it’s getting more and more common, again, if your book starts selling well, a publisher may pick you up, trouble is, you might decide you like being in the driving seat rather than being driven!
YSB: I didn’t know smaller publishers got you out there faster. That’s interesting. Having now penned and published a novel, looking back is there anything you would have done differently? What’s coming up next for you?
No, Yasmin, I wouldn’t have done a thing differently. Everything that’s happened to date has been an integral part of the journey. My husband wishes I’d done something differently though, he wishes I’d got off my backside and written the book a whole lot sooner! Next up, I’ve just finished my second WIP, not a romance this time but a paranormal set in and around Lewes, East Sussex. It’s been to beta readers, received great feedback, been amended/edited and sent back to beta readers for checking. Although I have to give Omnific first refusal, I’m not sure they’ll want it as it’s not primarily romance, so it could be back to the drawing board regarding a publisher. Still, romance is once more on the agenda with the sequel to The Runaway Year pending and this time, things get a whole lot more serious!
YSB: I hope Book no 2 finds a home. You live in Brighton and I know you’ve made me insanely jealous because you sat on the beach in breathing distance of Nick Cave, what do you get up to in your spare time?
Ah, yes, Nick Cave, thank goodness I hadn’t eaten garlic that day! I know he’s not technically good looking but the man is just so damn cool, who cares?! A true Taurean, I love eating and drinking, so eating out is always good with me – anywhere that serves hot and spicy food, Indian mainly but also Thai and Italian. I sometimes grace the theatre with my presence or pop to the cinema. Pretty much everything I do though revolves around food or my interest wanes very quickly!
YSB: If you’d seen Mr Cave in 1987, in Wings of Desire, for the first time, with hormones running rampant like I did at 14! I had no idea such fine creatures existed. Okay, if someone was describing you to a mutual friend, how would they describe you? I’ll give you 100 words. Go!
Friendly, funny, self-deprecating, mad as a hatter and bald as a coot (I am joking about the latter!). Some may say I’m vain but I blame my astrological ruler Venus for that – those of us under her care simply cannot help ourselves. I’m also known as the ‘pout queen’ but why I just don’t know – I’m totally natural in photographs. I hope I’d be described as kind too – it’s very important to me to be nice to people and to only believe in the best. Oh, and greedy, especially when it comes to sweets!
YSB: Oh God another thing we have in common, I get accusations of pouting too! Tell me three things I don’t know about you, that you reckon may surprise me.
Despite a million and one therapy sessions, I’m still terrified of spiders. I have never written a short story, I just went straight for the big ‘un. My first name is Indian in origin, it means ‘Little Jewel’ according to my mother!
YSB: Little Jewel, that is lovely Shani. Very best of luck with The Runaway Year xx
Right, peeps, you didn’t honestly think I was going to end it there without an excerpt from Shani’s novel did you? Read on:
Finding herself on the way to the village center again, she pulled over, intending to negotiate a three-point turn. The cottage was slightly out of the village, so she needed to get back onto the opposite side of the road and go back up the hill. Glancing over Hannah’s instructions again, she swung the car to the right—straight into the path of a motorcyclist.
What happened next seemed to happen in slow motion. The rider tried to stop but couldn’t do so in time, although he did manage to avoid hitting her car. As he turned his handlebars hard to the right, his tires lost grip on the wet road and he flew off, sliding some way before coming to a halt.
Layla sat motionless in her car, paralyzed temporarily by the shock. At last she managed to galvanize herself into action and fumbled for the door handle, her shaking hands making it hard to get a grip. When the door finally opened, another dilemma hit. What if she couldn’t stand? Her legs felt like jelly, surely they wouldn’t support her. Forcing herself upward, she was relieved to discover they held firm. Once she was sure they would continue to do so, she bolted over to where the biker lay, placed one hand on his soaking leather-clad shoulder and said, “Are you okay?”
“No, I’m not bloody okay!” he replied, a pair of bright blue eyes meeting hers as he lifted his visor. “I’m a bit bruised and battered as it goes.”
Despite his belligerent words, relief flooded through her: he wasn’t dead!
“Oh, I’m so glad,” she said, letting out a huge sigh.
“Glad?” he said, sitting up now and brushing the mud and leaves off his left arm. “Charming.”
“Oh, no, no,” she stuttered, realizing what she’d just said. “I’m not glad that I knocked you over. I’m glad you’re alive.”
“Only just, I think,” he replied, needing a helping hand to stand up.
“Can I give you a lift somewhere, take you to the nearest hospital?”
“The nearest hospital? That would be in Bodmin, I think, about fifteen miles from here. I don’t fancy driving fifteen miles with you behind the wheel.”
Feeling a little indignant now, Layla replied, “I’m actually a very good driver, thank you. You’re the first accident I’ve ever had.”
“Lucky me,” he replied sarcastically.
Buy The Runaway Year on Amazon here
Here’s where you can find out more about Shani Struthers